PCC Complaint. Herts And Essex Observer, 17th May 2011 – RESOLVED
“VIDEO: Police strike at Dunmow cannabis factory”, the Herts and Essex Observer, 17-05-11
I wish to make a complaint concerning the above article which is still available online at: http://www.hertsandessexobserver.co.uk/Dunmow-Stansted/VIDEO-Police-strike-at-Dunmow-cannabis-factory-16052011.htm
I make the complaint on my own account but also in my capacity as the Leader of Cannabis Law Reform (CLEAR), a UK political party, of P.O.Box 674, Salfords, Redhill, RH1 9BN. For the purposes of correspondence, please use my personal address as below.
1. This article breaches the Editors’ Code Of Practice clause 1.i) in that it publishes inaccurate, misleading and distorted information.
2. During the video, PC Rebecca Hawkins, Lead Officer, says “The plants themselves can be very, very harmful to officers because the spores if they’re ingested they can cause serious illness”. Although these words are spoken by the police officer that does not absolve the publisher from its obligation not to publish “inaccurate, misleading and distorted information.”, particularly as in this case readers might reasonably expect the officer to be an expert and to provide factual information. In fact, this statement is inaccurate, misleading and distorted information, both in its use of the term “spores” and in its description of potential harm.
3. Cannabis plants do not release “spores” because they are seed bearing plants. “Spores” are an entirely different method of reproduction used by fungi.
4. The only substances that could potentially be ingested by anyone in close proximity to cannabis plants are pollen or dust. The chances of anyone ingesting these unintentionally in sufficient quantities to cause any form of illness are infinitesimally small.
5. According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration Judge, Francis Young, cannabis is one of the least toxic therapeutically active substances known to man. The scientific measurement of toxicity is the therapeutic ratio – effective dose:lethal dose. The therapeutic ratio of alcohol is 1:20, of aspirin 1:35, of cannabis 1:20000. Clearly, it would be impossible for anyone to ingest sufficient quantity of cannabis pollen or dust to cause “serious illness”
I would be grateful if you would deal with this complaint at your earliest convenience. I shall be happy to provide any further information required or to give oral evidence in support.
Herts and Essex Observer
Peter Reynolds, leader of Cannabis Law Reform, complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the newspaper had published inaccurate information in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code. A video on the newspaper’s website included the inaccurate claim (made by an interview subject) that cannabis plants produce “very, very harmful” spores; in fact, cannabis does not release spores.
The matter was resolved when the PCC negotiated the re-editing of the video to remove the inaccurate claim and the publication of the following clarification on the newspaper’s website:
Police strike at Dunmow cannabis factory: clarification
In a video relating to a story on this website headlined “VIDEO: Police strike at Dunmow cannabis factory”, which was published on May 17, 2011, PC Rebecca Hawkins, Essex Police’s lead officer on the raid, said that cannabis spores can be “very, very harmful” and cause “serious illness” to officers if ingested.
We would like to clarify that cannabis is a seed-bearing plant and, as such, does not release spores, although it is prone to mould infestation and mould, being a fungus, does produce spores, although these are unlikely to cause serious harm or illness. (Cl 1)